Board members of Mobile’s Child Advocacy Center have confirmed Executive Director Patrick Guyton has been on administrative leave more than a month and will soon retire after multiple public officials raised concerns over his alleged behavior in the workplace.
The CAC works with local agencies to serve victims of childhood sexual abuse and their families by providing a safe space for interviews with a trained team of professional counselors in order to assist with criminal prosecution and the healing process for victims.
Some of those agencies include the Mobile Police Department, Mobile County Sheriff’s office, the Mobile County District Attorney’s office, Mobile Department of Human Resources and the private counseling services group Lifelines.
Guyton has served as the CAC’s executive director since it opened in 1988, but the professional relationships he maintained with members of agencies working in the center have recently become untenable, according to several sources with knowledge of its operations.
Most recently, Lifelines pulled out all of its counselors working in the center over what multiple sources have said were concerns with Guyton’s demeanor and interpersonal interactions with subordinates and employees working with contracting agencies.
While Lifelines has continued to work with children and families who might normally come to the CAC for their services, they have recently been doing so at another location due to those concerns.
Lagniappe spoke to a current and a former CAC employee, both of whom worked directly with Guyton, and each recalled alleged outbursts of yelling, door slamming and other aggressive behaviors noticeable enough to draw the attention of outside agencies that work in the center.
CAC Board President Terry Ankerson recently confirmed that similar concerns about the deteriorating relationship with Guyton were brought to the board’s attention by District Attorney Ashley Rich, MPD Chief Lawrence Battiste, local DHR Director Stephanie Streeter, other public officials and representatives from Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s administration.
Ankerson also confirmed Guyton has been on “administrative leave for professional development” since Jan. 1 while the board works to finalize details of his retirement. He said that could take effect as early as March 1, but clarified that, in the meantime, Guyton “has not” and “will not” be at the CAC facility.
“Apparently there were some verbal issues and discussions at the center itself which led to some of the issues that developed,” Akerson added. “Those personal contacts and relationships … had gotten to the point where they were … it was very trying for [Lifelines] to a point that they didn’t see where they could continue to work under that relationship.”
However, Ankerson said the board and all of the agencies affiliated with CAC agree “the mission is first and foremost,” noting that board members moved to address the issue immediately after it was brought to their attention by local officials. He said the board is working with Lifelines to get them “back together under one roof” at the CAC, saying “they understand Pat is retiring.”
Lifelines Board President Sharee Broussard confirmed those discussions are in the works, but declined to address the concerns with CAC’s leadership that led them to pull out of the center.
“Lifelines Counseling Services counselors are currently working directly with all the partners who operate through Child Advocacy Center. Our counselors are continuing to provide services to existing clients and new referrals,” she said. “Healing families, especially those impacted by trauma and abuse in our community, is always our top priority.”
Ankerson said Guyton had also been forthcoming with the board when some of these issues first arose, adding that he had brought up retiring before. In addition to Lifelines, he said the board has been in talks with all of the other agencies working with the CAC to ensure serving children and families at the center is not disrupted by the transition.
While the board plans to formally and publicly announce Guyton’s retirement and begin a search for his permanent replacement soon, there’s currently no set date for either.
Reached by phone late Monday, Guyton confirmed he would be retiring after 30 years at the helm of the CAC, adding that he was nearly 70 years old and would soon be moving on.
When asked, Guyton said he was aware of the concerns raised by some of the CAC’s partnering agencies, but said, “the thing I’m focusing on now is my next chapter.”
“I’ve sat in that front office and I’ve met with every single parent I can think of who has brought their child to our center. It can be very stressful working with families in that situation. It’s not just children who are affected by sexual abuse, whole families are impacted by it,” he said. “I’ve been able to do that because I have a wonderful board of directors who have supported me.”
Still, members of the CAC board who spoke with Lagniappe had several positive things to say about Guyton’s leadership during his nearly 30 years at the center.
Ankerson called him “a leader” in the prevention of child sexual abuse at the local and state level, and said he’s been instrumental in shifting the CAC’s dependence on public contributions by growing the number of private donations the center receives on a regular basis.
Guyton has worked with the Alabama Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, the National Children’s Alliance, the Alabama Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers and served on a gubernatorial task force that pushed for and successfully passed “Erin’s law” in 2016.